SINGAPORE (AFP) – Singapore has scrapped its much-criticised S-League after 22 seasons and rebranded it as the Singapore Premier League in a bid to bring back fans and raise standards.
Football is hugely popular in Singapore but many fans prefer watching European games on TV and the S-League has also suffered problems from corruption scandals to poor player discipline and falling attendances.
The national team is ranked just 172nd in the world and there have been allegations that Singapore has become a hub for global match-fixing.
While many details are yet to be released, the new league will make it mandatory to have three under-23 players start every match, while kick-off times will be brought forward to 5:30pm to encourage families.
“This is definitely not a cosmetic relaunch,” said Football Association of Singapore (FAS) president Lim Kia Tong at the new league’s launch.
“Our new vision and attitude will improve the vibrancy of football in Singapore,” he added.
As well as encouraging more youngsters to play, FAS also wants to put more emphasis on fitness by encouraging footballers to stop smoking.
Lim was elected last year to head the FAS. Shortly before his election, police raided the association’s headquarters and three local football clubs following allegations of financial mismanagement.
Such scandals are unusual in Singapore, which is regarded as one of the world’s least corrupt countries.
Some fans were sceptical about the changes to the nine-team league, however.
“You can brand it whatever you want but if you do not improve players income it would be still a mediocre league where players are required to work 2-3 jobs to supplement their income,” wrote Facebook user Kandan Chandran.
Muhammed Misha’al commented on the site: “The last time I went to an S-League (match), there were 3 spectators. Me and 2 cats.”